Volume 75, Number 20 | October 05 - 11, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Proof” (+)

This film is interesting and worth seeing, but it is not a blockbuster.

I became familiar with the plot of “Proof” when I saw the play on Broadway starring Anne Heche who was terrific in the role of Catherine. Gwyneth Paltrow, who portrays Catherine in the film, gives a fine but different performance as well.

Catherine is the daughter of Robert (Anthony Hopkins), a professor at the University of Chicago who is suffering from a mental illness which is never explicitly defined. He goes in and out of delusions and never leaves his home. Catherine, a graduate student in mathematics, returns to her father’s home to care for him.

The professor still has students who visit him, one of whom is Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is very interested in the professor’s research. The “Proof” in the title refers to the written proof needed to establish that Robert has solved an outstanding math problem. Hal finds that proof in a drawer to which he has been given access by Catherine, whom he develops a romance with. The question is, did the father or daughter find the solution?

The acting is fine and the script is interesting, but I was never enveloped to a point of bonding with anyone in the film. For me, the relationship between Catherine and her father never quite takes off, and her intimacy with Hal lacks depth and passion. A similar and far better film is “A Beautiful Mind” starring Russell Crowe, who portrays a brilliant professor losing his mind to psychosis. HS, with whom I saw the film, suggests that for people fascinated by complex equations, “Good Will Hunting” with Matt Damon is the film to see. All three depict fine schools. “Proof” is set at the University of Chicago, “Mind” at Princeton, and “Hunting” at MIT.

“El Crimen Perfecto” (-)

I expected to like this film after reading several good reviews, e.g., Kevin Thomas wrote in the Los Angeles Times that, “The Spanish have been masters of sly black comedy, and “El Crimen Perfecto” (The Perfect Crime) is a splendid example.”

The movie, which takes place in Spain, is on occasion reminiscent of the Marx Brothers and Fellini films, but it is not up to the standards of either in terms of slapstick or surrealism. At times it becomes too gross, and it is definitely too long.

The script had great promise as it unfolded. Rafael (Guillermo Toledo) is the head salesman in the woman’s department of a store. He is adored by the saleswomen in the shop and has sexual moments with nearly all of them except for Lourdes (Monica Cervera) whom he views as ugly. Lourdes, who is certainly not physically attractive, loves Rafael.

Rafael is vying with the head of the men’s department, Don Antonio (Luis Varela), for the position of floor manager. In the course of a fight, an accidental homicide occurs, and Don Antonio dies except to reappear in surreal moments of comedy that do not measure up to the Marx Brothers or Fellini’s magic.

How the homicide is covered up and revealed, how Lourdes gets her immediate and later revenge in the final scene is central to this movie. If I had known when I entered the theater what I know now, I would have stayed home.

–Ed Koch

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